During my last visit to KC one of the many conversations that sprouted amongst people there was about anime. I love the fact that I have friends from so many backgrounds and with awesome hobbies. I was an anime freak at some point, and even thought I still follow one religiously (I watch it about an hour after it is released in Japan sometimes) I don’t participate in the community as much as I used to. I was at one time the Anime Society of Kansas City webmaster… but I was a horrible webmaster after I moved to Chicago so my friend Tim took the job over.
During the conversation my BFF asked what he should watch… and well, that is like asking a librarian what is her favorite book. But I promised to take on the task of putting together a little introduction to anime for those that don’t even know where to start. So this will be half introduction to anime, half pissing off anime fans because not only are they out there, they will think I am so wrong for recommending X or Y… you will see.
Before we get into recommendations lets talk a little about anime. Animation in Japan is a little different than in the rest of the world. Anime and Manga(comics) are consumed beyond the youth and into adulthood. While most kids stop reading comics at one point or another in their lives, Japanese animation continue well beyond that. That brings us to something you need to stay away from which is Hentai. A first time anime watcher can be discouraged from watching further anime because they encounter a movie that is geared towards adults with their own fetish. So basically people might expect skinemax level of entertainment and they end up with a very specific animated snuff film. It is like asking a person getting back into reading for pleasure to read Dante’s Inferno. When you are starting out on anime, don’t try to explore the adult world of animation first. I think you should learn a little more about the medium before you are grossed out by some monster with many many tentacles.
Now that we got out of the way, since most anime is geared towards an adult audience, it does not mean that all anime is XXX either. There are animated things for children, a lot of them will have adult themes. Furthermore there are animation geared towards boys or girls. That is probably one of the biggest differences we see, because even though a lot of comic fans continue into adolescence, there is really not much of a market for girls here in the U.S.
I could post a lot more about this subject, but I just wanted to give a little background as to what I was going to present. I am also going to cheat quite a bit and leave out anything that you would have to consume subbed. Not too long ago it was very challenging to get some series dubbed, and to purist it is almost sacrilege to present anime to someone in a dubbed form. Eventually if you fall in love with some anime I do recommend it watching it with the original voice acting, but to start out I think only looking at dubbed is fine. *Disclaimer* most of the ones I will recommend are my personal favorites. If you have better options, just leave a comment, don’t discredit my choices, just give yours
I am also picking films or series that are easy to find on streaming services or rental.
Ghost in the Shell – Action – Sci-Fi
This film can be consumed in one afternoon. While I already loved anime before watching this, this one really cemented anime in my brain as entertainment beyond kid stuff. It showed me that animated films could have not just depth, but also deal with adult themes. A fun fact is that The Matrix owes a lot of its style and visual feel to the film.
Rurouni Kenshin – Samurai
This is a series that will captivate you from beginning to end. The cool part about this anime is that even though it is turn of the century and very serious at times, it also gets goofy from time to time. There is a movie series associated with it called Samurai X which is a little drier than the anime, but still excellent. Its turn of the century Japan and the adventures of a Samurai that does not want to kill anymore. Along with it is a love story and tons of interesting characters. I find it to be a great introduction to anime because while not completely formulaic you can start to see the themes that are often used for a series.
Full Metal Alchemist – Fantasy
I know that “brotherhood is out” however I love the original. The story of two brothers is told through their adventures as they deal with an ever changing world. Lots of mystery and fantasy mixed with loyalty and love for family. A great series that is not as long as Kenshin, but just as enjoyable.
Last but not least is, addict the special woman in your life to anime.
Fruits Basket – Romance
While the series is a very girly series, it still has its moments of action. The story is good around a girl in distress and the Chinese zodiac curse. Lovable characters, easy to watch. I don’t like to talk about it much because it is so much more fun to discover things as you watch it.